Vinyl records: Old tech sparks new demand in Franklin

Will Jordan, owner of Kimbro’s, a photographer and a vintage clothing retailer, has opened Carpe Diem, a record shop specializing in vinyl, the only such store in Franklin. Vinyl has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. / John Partipilo / The Tennessean

FRANKLIN — A chalkboard on the front porch of Carpe Diem in downtown Franklin invites folks in to shop for vinyl.

Not everyone gets it.

Just the other day a passerby stopped in the shop to look at vinyl. Rudy Jordan, mother of the proprietor, Will Jordan, ushered her back to the record shop portion of the store, an eclectic slip of a place adjacent to Kimbro’s on South Margin.

“Oh, it’s records,” said the dismayed customer. “I’m looking for vinyl to cover a motorcycle seat.”

The ever-gracious Rudy offered the names of places like Joann’s in Cool Springs that would probably have the kind of vinyl she was seeking.

But those who do get it — and Will says they are plentiful — sort through his offerings of old records with great enthusiasm.

“We have a lot of teenagers, college students and of course serious collectors in here. On any given day, there are probably around 1,000 records in here,” he said.

One of those who does get it, Franklin resident J.D. Meek, terms himself a “serious collector.”

The 45-year-old systems engineer says he’s been collecting for 30 years.

“My mother says even as a very young child I would crawl over to the stereo speakers, listen to music and fall asleep,” he said.

In the late ’80s, he sold his big collection, but started collecting again.

“I have 1,000 albums … lots in boxes, but about 200 out and readily accessible. Vinyl just captures music better. I love the sound and feel of it,” he said.

The vinyl offerings at Carpe Diem include 45s, 78s and 33s and range from rock to country to recordings of presidential speeches.

Will says there is a real resurgence of interest in vinyl.

“Pressing vinyl now is expensive. In its heyday the master was made from pressed wax and records were produced en masse. Now, there are very few artists who use vinyl. Jack White comes to mind; he presses his own vinyl and they go for $30 or more each,” said Will, who has himself been a collector since he was a teenager.

“My mom and dad gave me their record collection when I was 16 or 17. I listened to one side while I read all the information in album covers, then flipped it over and listened to the other side. I’ve always been into music, and I still prefer vinyl to digital,” he said.

He maintains he hears more bass in vinyl than digital.

“You can really tell the difference,” he said. “Vinyl has a fullness that digital does not have. The sound is pure, honest and real.”

Bring your own

This 40-year-old guy, now a father of a teenager himself, owns four record players. He plays them in his shop and next door at Kimbro’s, an eatery and music venue he owns.

“We always have vinyl playing in the red bar at Kimbro’s. Oftentimes customers will come in here to the shop and buy records, then bring them over and we play them,” he said. “And customers also just bring their own for us to play.”

Seemingly a bit of BYOV (bring your own vinyl).

And for the non-record-player-owning folks, Carpe Diem (Italian for “seize the day”) can fix you up.

“We repair and sell record players. They go from $25 to $250 and they sell immediately. When I post one on Facebook, it’s gone immediately. We even have needles here for those old record players,” said the photographer-artist-collector.

This entrepreneur has become quite the picker. And not the guitar type.

He picks through shops, barns and attics (always by invitation) looking for old records and unique antiques, which fill the front half of his little shop. His picking trips include an annual sojourn up the east coast to Maine and back.

Few record stores

He says record shops are few and far between. He says his is the only one in Franklin. Nashville has several, including Grimey’s and Great Escape.

“Records are nostalgic. Playing them takes us back to different times,” he said.

The offerings in Carpe Diem, as far as vinyl goes, sell from 10 cents to $100 each, depending on quality and rarity. He offers everything from “Woodstock I and II” to the Beatles to Japanese imports of Elvis recordings. That vinyl is flashy, like the King himself. It’s red, green and gold — and snazzy. There’s a vast array of other recordings, from big band to presidential speeches.

Meek says he’s a regular at Carpe Diem.

“Will is all about quality. He has an incredible offering of all sorts of recordings, including the off-the-wall stuff I like. While once I wanted a really huge collection, now I want all the records I can get of really, really good quality. Will has that. He is all about perfection,” he said.

Meek says nearly every visit ends up in a purchase.

“Just last Saturday I found a pristine first pressing of a Chet Atkins record,” he said.

Will says he lives with many of the records he finds for a while.

“And some of them, I just can’t let go,” he laughs.

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